Towards Eliminating Violence Among Women, Children
Domestic violence has become rampant among women and children, who constitute the vulnerable groups in the society. This problem has remained a pervasive phenomenon that blights the lives of millions of children, haunts entire communities and stifles the prospects for sustainable development and social progress. Violence manifests itself in diverse forms such as neglect, physical and emotional violence, sexual abuse, rape, trafficking, torture, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment, forced and child marriage, acid attacks, killings in the name of honour and forced begging among others.
At the Fifth International Conference on Women and Children, which held at the Nigeria Institute of International Affairs (NIIA), Victoria Island, with the theme, ‘Global Approaches to Violence against Women and Children: identifying the Triggers, Remedies/Solutions and Policy Frameworks, stakeholders, government and relevant organisations came together to proffer solutions to prevailing domestic violence issues.
In her remarks, wife of the President, Federal Republic of Nigeria, Hajia Aisha Buhari, noted that over the past two decades, violence against women has come to be understood as a real violation of women’s human rights and gender-based discrimination.
The poverty of the Nigerian women, their lack of empowerment, as well as their marginalisation resulting from their exclusion from social and economic policies, has placed them at the increased risk of violence, contrary to internationally agreed development goals, including the Millennium Development Goals. On the other hand, violence against children has become the most disturbing trend of our time. Indeed, hardly a day passes without one form of violence or the other especially child domestic rape, human trafficking, baby factory and child labour, being committed against the Nigerian child.
The recent study of Nigeria’s Population Commission with support from UNICEF and the U.S. Centres for Disease Control reveals that six out of 10 Nigerian children experience some form of violence, and a quarter of girls suffer sexual violence. This statistics is rudely shocking. We have also watched with alarm in the last two years, the increasing violence and hostilities against children and destruction of the lives of many Nigerian children. Hundreds and thousands of Nigerian children have been victims of war and mass expulsions across different parts of the country. Our children are also the victims of rape, abortion, infanticide, child labour, street hawking, child prostitution, social media violent pornography, condom-sex and human trafficking,” she said.
Mrs. Buhari was particularly disturbed that despite the fact that the family is the fundamental unit of the society and shaper of values for children, there are many conspiracies to destroy or deconstruct the family and the meaning of traditional marriage. She, therefore, canvassed for the re-invigoration of the family institution to enable it continues its protection of both the women and children.
Women should not be seen as mere objects to be molested or visited by violence, especially domestic violence. Rather, they should be seen as playing complementary role to the men in building the family and the nation. Abortion remains the greatest violence against women and should be avoided.
The Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) 1989, signed and ratified by Nigeria remains the benchmark for assessing the rights of our children. Every child, before and after birth, should have a right to life, right to basic education, right not to be coerced to engage in any unlawful sexual activity, right not to be abducted and sold into slavery, freedom of expression, right not to be used for forced labour, child trade and child trafficking. I, therefore, call for the implementation of the Violence Against Persons (Prohibition) Act 2015.”
In his speech, Barrister Sonnie Ekwuowusi, a legal practitioner and convener of the conference said: “Since attaining independence from their respective colonial masters, most African countries have enacted different legislation for the punishment of common offences that have to do with violence against women and children such as ordinary rape, child abduction, child defilement, assault, domestic violence (husband or wife battery). And with effect from 1993, when the World Conference on Human Rights declared violence against women a violation of Human rights, more African countries followed suit in the enactment of more legislations. Indeed, to date, at least 36 of the 54 African countries have enacted legislation defining various forms of violence against women. These include ratifying and domesticating international conventions that provide an overreaching legal framework to support national legislation.
But we now live in a new world that constantly spews out unspeakable bizarre violence against women and children. For example, barbaric and gruesome violence has become widespread in Nigeria in recent times. We are still shocked by the case of Akolade Arowolo, who has been sentenced to death for stabbing his wife 76 times before she finally slumped and died. We heard the bizarre story of a lady, who used red-hot pressing-iron to iron the body of her house-help simply because the latter allegedly failed to do her duty.”
While the Office of the Public Defender (OPD), Lagos State Ministry of Justice states that one in five girls and one in 20 boys is a victim of child sexual abuse, most speakers believe that it is associated with rape and pornography. They were unanimous in their call for the need to resolve to build veritable frame-works, as well as erect mechanism in liaison with Nigerian policymakers to end violence against women and children in Nigeria. They believed mere enactment of legislation is not enough to end violence against women and children.
According to an associate Professor of English and the Head of Department, English, National Open University of Nigeria, Dr. Onyeka Iwuchukwu, “we live in a patriarchal society, where the man feels he is superior to the woman. A husband, therefore, owns his wife and everything she has. The husband instructs and his wife obeys without questions. If she dares to speak up or even air her views, it becomes a problem. It is a misconception of marriage, which is supposed to be hinged on companionship and not master-slave relationship.
“Government should enact and ensure the implementation of laws against domestic violence and other forms of violence against women. Lagos State has set the pace, but the problem is that cultural inhibitions hinder women from reporting.
The Police needs orientation in this regard because many of them intimidate women who dare to report such cases.”
She noted that working on a concept called Focu-Feminism, means that each woman’s experience is different and peculiar. So, each one should focus on herself, while ensuring that she is not a trigger to the violence against herself and then devise survival mechanisms devoid of violence.
“It also insists that women need to put their houses in order as men, patriarchy, traditions and cultures are not the only agents of violence against women, since women also unleash violence on themselves. The junior female staff, your house help and your daughter-in-law among others are women. And if you oppress and subjugate them, then that is also violence. Once each woman focuses on herself, works for the common good of the people around her, violence against women if not eliminated, will be reduced to the barest minimum.”
Speaking on sex trafficking and violence against children in Nigeria, Chinyere Rita Agu of the Research and studies department, Nigerian Institute of International Affairs said that human trafficking, especially among minors and young women for the purpose of sexual exploitation, has become a global concern because of its rapid growth in recent years and contributes to 58 per cent of trafficking globally.
“Sex trafficking has also shifted to a more sophisticated dimensions such as baby factories, which are found in some parts of the Eastern states in Nigeria. It is largely attributed to widespread poverty, large family size, low literacy level and high school dropout rates.”
Commenting on the increasing abhorrent new-age violence, against women and children, Ekwuowusi said that Nigeria has enacted some legislations in recent years such as the Imo State law of Nigeria Violence against Persons (Prohibition) Law No 12, 2012, which has been repealed by the Imo State House of Assembly because it promoted abortion, and the Violence Against Persons (Prohibition) (VAPP) Act 2015. On June 3 2015, the 7th Senate passed the Sexual Offences Bill 2015, which prescribes, inter alia, life imprisonment for rapists and those who have had sexual intercourse with children. The Nigerians courts are disposed to grant reliefs sought by women who have suffered violence.
“While applauding these legal breakthroughs, it must be stated that the obligation of the State to end violence against women and children should extend beyond legislation to enforcement. Legislation must be accompanied by multiple enforcement strategies. Equally necessary is the establishment of institutional mechanisms that facilitate easy access to the law courts in order to bring perpetrators of violence against women and children to justice,” he said.